Joe Sinsheimer may be the only Democrat in North Carolina smiling these days.
When former House Speaker Jim Black pleaded guilty last week to bribing a state representative, Tar Heel Democrats were chagrined. But Sinsheimer, who crusaded against Black online for nearly a year, felt vindicated.
"It's a day of personal satisfaction, but also deep sorrow that the state of affairs is this bad," Sinsheimer said shortly after Black's hearing in Wake Superior Court. Black is a Democrat from Mecklenburg County.
A former Democratic operative, Sinsheimer became disgusted by the political machinations around the creation of the lottery. In 2005, he started jimblackmustgo.com.
The Web site, which shut down in October, featured original research and links about Black's campaign donors and ethical problems. On a few occasions, it scooped the mainstream press.
Sinsheimer said the Web site got about 2 million hits during the 11 months it was up.
Sinsheimer, a venture capitalist, said he paid the costs of the site out of his own pocket. Some readers sent him unsolicited cash and checks, but Sinsheimer said he returned them all. "I felt like, because I was speaking out so passionately about campaign finance, that I didn't want to have any contributors at all," he said.
A larger cesspool
Now that Black has resigned from office and pleaded guilty, Sinsheimer's main target is gone. But he believes there is a "larger cesspool" of corruption still uncovered in the state legislature.
He's not sure what he's going to do next.
His previous career as a Democratic political consultant has probably been irrevocably hurt by his advocacy, though he is volunteering for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign.
Although he has worked with groups calling for campaign finance reform, Sinsheimer said he doesn't want to deal with the "organizational politics" of joining them.
For now, he has the satisfaction that Black did indeed go.
At Black's hearing last Tuesday, Sinsheimer sat in the third row from the front, scribbling notes on a yellow legal pad and occasionally shaking his head as a state investigator described an illegal campaign contribution.
The 40 reporters and onlookers stood when the bailiff announced the end of the two-hour hearing. Alone among the solemn faces, Sinsheimer cracked a brief smile.
Staff writer Ryan Teague Beckwith can be reached at 836-4944 or email@example.com.